Royal Dutch Shell Plc  .com Rotating Header Image Shell and the dreaded Donovan’s

By Alfred & John Donovan
Saturday 14 July 2007

After making an application to Shell under the UK Data Protection Action, we have received copies of Shell documents, communications and a Shell article and employee leaflet in which our names are mentioned. We know that Shell has not given us all of the internal correspondence covered by the Act, but what we have obtained thus far – there is more to come – is revealing. 

A number of Shell internal emails relate to Bill Campbell and the Brent Bravo scandal. The names of the authors (lawyers) are deleted, as are the individuals to whom the emails were circulated. Otherwise than that, we have the majority of the content. Campbell’s name was deleted from the correspondence but we have reinserted it where we deem appropriate.

We also have copies of correspondence between Shell and Bill Campbell’s solicitors which reveal the pressure applied to Campbell to keep him way from us and to suck him into a cover-up. 

The problem for Shell is that some individuals, including Shell Exploration & Production Chief Executive Malcolm Brinded, have put profits before safety. Brinded knew of the “TFA” policy, knew about the falsified safety records and the bodged repairs, but backed the platform managers responsible for the corrupted safety culture instead of sacking them and taking appropriate remedial action. Instead Brinded got rid of Campbell, the leader of the Safety Audit which revealed the serious shortcomings.  The bottom line seems to be that it is better commercially for Shell to pay off the relatives of employees killed in avoidable fatal accidents than to interrupt production for safety considerations.  Off shore employees are apparently considered an expendable commodity. 

As will be seen, some at Shell have been working themselves up into a gung-ho frame of mind saying “we won’t tolerate the Donovans’ approach unchallenged any longer?” Unfortunately wiser counsel is likely to prevail in respect of any legal initiative by Shell because its lawyers are very conscious of the McLibel case (see Richard Wiseman section at the foot of this article).

Campbell’s name was deleted from the correspondence supplied but we have reinserted it where we deem appropriate.

We have also inserted our comments in brackets and in italics.

FIRST EMAIL: 28 February 2007

The first was sent on 28 February 2007 at 10.36

Subject: RE: xxxxxxxxxxxxxx and Confidential: Brent Bravo and xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Xxxx All.

Thanks for this. I think closing down communications is the best route to take. The more we engage with the Donovans the more ammunition they will have.

(we do have lots of ammunition)

They appear to view themselves as top international journalists. The only journalist who has ever mentioned their website is xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx although I made no comment on the Donovans, he was very scathing and did not take them seriously at all. This may be of some comfort.

(we have no illusions about being anything more than annoying but well informed bloggers and have never claimed otherwise)

Kind regards


09 March 2007 15.28

Subject: Legally Privileged and Confidential – Campbell and Donovan follow up

Following the recent activity around Campbell and the Donovans, N/Sea integrity etc., it was agreed that a follow-up on the broader strategy relating particularly to handling the Donovans would be valuable. This is intended to start the process.

(handling the Donovans? We don’t like the sound of that…)

As it stands we are on the back foot and our aim should be to develop a strategy (or options) that puts us in a more positive and secure position.

(with all due respect, Shell always seems to be on the back foot in their dealings with us)

Areas to consider (my brain dump – in no particular order):

• Review handling the media – e.g. creation/ratification of one blanket statement as way forward – proactive approach with selected journos.

• Qs and As for the AGM – See attached – need to update, but possibly change stance. Would one strong blanket response be more effective than several rebuttals? Should we be more forthright about the site and our views on it? What might happen (Leafleting in the past)?

(Shell is frightened about the return of our leafleting team) 

(has Shell ever thought about telling the truth- that would be a unique strategy for Shell instead of preparing  spin)

•  Strategy to detach BC from the Donovans (in his best interests – and ours).  Positive engagement with BC (who and how?) alongside demonstration that we won’t tolerate the Donovans’ approach unchallenged any longer? Way forward.

(Obviously a rather macho hombre making the threats, but where’s the follow-through?  The last communication received from Shell was on Thursday when Michiel Brandjes signed off his email to us on another subject with the friendly salutation: “Best regards”.  Talk about mixed signals. What is Shell so worried about if the consciences of relevant Shell executives and platform management are unburdened with guilt? Why would detaching BC from the Donovan’s be in Shell’s best interest if Shell has nothing to hide?)

• Scenarios – see attached first draft from xxxxxxxxx. Are there others? Are we prepared? How do we prepare/respond?

(Where is our copy of the scenarios draft? Does it not contain our name?)

• Blockers and enablers, strengths and weaknesses. Do we fully understand our own position. Are there on-going issues that we need to know about/fix. Ensure we are on solid ground. Are we making the most of what we’ve got.

While this note is going to everyone on the address list I don’t expect everyone to participate. However, participation will depend on the areas we finally decide to concentrate on – thus, please let me know if you have areas not covered above will need consideration (or consider that some of the above do not need attention now) and then let me know if you would like to take part in the follow up.

Date – asap – format and location to be confirmed. Clear agenda and deliverables, working event (no presentations except to establish baselines), round table working group. Will need to keep to workable size!

Please respond soonest and I will work to get this off the ground asap.

By copy to xxxxxxxxxxxxx.

xxxxxxxxxx has suggested that you be included in this note given your experience.

Thanks and regards



Sent: 13 March 2007 08.27
Subject:  RE: Upstream content

FYI, in case not seen elsewhere, pasted in below is an article from the Donovan site published late yesterday, on safety – with “an insider” giving fatality figures for 2006 and for Jan Feb this year…


(The article accessible via the link below was reprinted in the email)

(Attached to the email is another email dated 09 March 2007 00.14: Our name is not mentioned so we do not know why this was supplied to us)

Date: 09 March 2007 00.14

Subject: Upstream content

Please find enclosed the Upstream content as requested. If you have any problems with the format please feel free to contact me on 0131 656 7200. I am available throughout tonight.

Shell hits a fresh problem at Brent. Troubled field suffers new incident as oil mixes with produced water

By Upstream staff [email protected]>

Shell’s much-troubled flagship Brent field has suffered a pollution incident with the accidental release of oil-contaminated produced water into the sea beyond the permitted levels from its Brent Charlie platform in the UK northern North Sea.

The company confirmed it had “an oil ingress” into its produced water system on 28 February, causing an oil carry over to sea in its produced water.

“This was a process upset, not an integrity issue. The ingress was quickly stemmed,” said Shell in a statement to Upstream.

The UK Department of Trade&Industry (DTI) said there had been a “produced water upset” on Brent Charlie, which means a release beyond the permitted levels of oil-contaminated water over a period of about three days.

“The DTI is now investigating how it happened and there will be meetings onshore and offshore,” said a spokesman.

Sources revealed about 42 tonnes (about 313 barrels) of oil had somehow got into the platform’s produced water system over a period of time.

It is believed at some point in the past oil had accidentally overflowed from one or two of the storage cells around the base of the concrete legs into the system.

It is understood that a similar problem happened on Brent Charlie about two years ago, which resulted in an extraction system and skimmer being fitted in the utility leg to take the oil out of the produced water.

Shell has started an internal investigation into the incident, which was spotted after an oil sheen appeared beside the platform.

It pointed out that all safety systems were working, and there was no risk to personnel. Production was not shut down.

However, the sources indicated that Shell was now likely to carry out further mitigation measures on the platform’s produced water system which are likely to be implemented this year.

This will most likely involve more pumping measures carried out within the platform’s utility leg.

It emerged this week that Shell was served with 10 improvement notices relating to its offshore operations last year by the Offshore Division of the government’s Health&Safety Executive (HSE) the highest number of any of the UK North Sea’s main operators.

An HSE spokesman said the number of safety notices served on Shell reflects the continuing concerns it has had about the company’s safety performance offshore.
Two years ago the company was fined a record£900,000 ($1.74 million) for safety failings that led to a massive gas escape in 2003 in the Brent Bravo utility leg in which two men died.

“The HSE’s Offshore Division has been engaged in a number of interventions to examine the company’s performance and identify areas for improvement. The company recognises that action is required and has already implemented changes to key safety performance indicators.

“Both HSE and Shell, however, recognise that there is more room for improvement and HSE continues to monitor progress closely. It is too early to say how long this process might take,” added the HSE spokesman.

Shell said the notices the HSE refer to have all been closed out and the situations rectified.

“We work continuously, both internally and with the HSE, on our offshore safety performance. We expect the HSE to have appropriate concerns about the safety performance of every offshore operator that is their role as a regulator,” the company said.

09 March 2007 00:01 GMT  \ last updated; 09 March 2007 00:01 GM



13 June 2007 09.57

Subject: Posting on Donovan Website#

I just wanted to make you aware of the following posting today on the Donovan website:

(The following article was then reprinted in full)



11 May 2007 13.02

Subject:  FW: Donovans: Email received

Importance: High

Donovan has a long running dispute with Shell stemming from rights to the Shell card system in the UK. Over the years this has morphed into a general anti Shell campaign run through his website (Wonder who didnt claim that one in time!).  He has, for instance, aligned with Bill Campbell over the North Sea safety allegations. He supplied this and other distorted facts to xxxxxx last autumn- his basic premise is that Shell management doesnt live up to their published values- which we of course strongly deny.

(Note that the author does not say that “we do of course live up to our published values”, but instead resorts to some typical spin)

His tactic here seems to be to produce a Sakhalin pseudo expose, xxxxxxxxxxxxxx and then give a time to reject it which given the time difference with Sakhalin it is impossible for xxx to meet.  

Once you read this correspondence it will be extremely important to respond at once and in the strongest terms to allow xxx to take the appropriate action.

(We actually offered Shell more time and they accepted the offer)

In the meantime, xxx will engage with xxxxxxxxx who is is travelling with at present, to put a context around this, but it is also extremely important that you and SEIC produce a measured response to these allegation asap.  Xxx will then determine the best way forward to respond externally.

(Again, no mention of simply telling the truth, apparently this option never occurs to Shell lawyers)

Sorry for the grief, I know from personal experience that this is not pleasant stuff to deal with.

(We deal with the “pleasant” issue below)


We also have several interesting emails relating to the Sakhalin-2 debacle. They will be published separately, as will Shell’s further confirmation of censorship on the TellShell forum. Correspondence we were never meant to see.

Article by Shell Legal Director Richard Wiseman published in “OPDirect”.

We note with interest a libellous magazine article authored by Shell Legal Director Richard Wiseman in November 1998 (we were unaware of its publication until now).

This article headlined “FUEL FOR THOUGHT: DEFENDING THE COMPANY’S GOOD NAME AND REPUTATION”, should have been disclosed in the discovery documents in the last High Court Action with Shell as it contained evidence material to the trial. The same applies to the leaflet also produced in November 1998 headed “DON MARKETING: THE FACTS”, circulated by Shell U.K. Limited Public Affairs UKCM and Legal UKLG to Shell employees.

We will of course be investigating bringing another libel action against Shell now that the article and leaflet have come to light. Shell has already settled two libel actions – one brought by Alfred Donovan and the second by John Donovan.  The first involved a financial package worth £125 K ($250,000). The second involved a secret cash payment to John Donovan hidden even from the relevant judge.

In the article, published in November 1998, Wiseman claimed that Shell UK had “consistently honoured” a confidentially agreement, but “Mr Donovan has not”.

That was a completely false allegation. On 10th September 1998 a journalist for The Guardian newspaper, Mr Simon Rines, had a meeting at Shell-Mex House with Richard Wiseman and Colin Joseph, the then lead partner of London Solicitors, DJ Freeman acting for the Royal Dutch Shell Group. During the meeting which was tape recorded in its entirety by both sides, they discussed with Rines (who still has the tape) the terms of the relevant highly confidential agreement with us and also let him have sight of a Defence and Counterclaim document filed by Shell, which contained details of the agreement.  We subsequently cornered DJ Freeman into confirming in writing that Simon Rines had indeed been shown a copy of the Defence And Counterclaim. The disclosures made to Rines provided irrefutable evidence that Shell had repudiated the agreement and we notified Shell accordingly.  Yet weeks later we now know that Wiseman authored an article which turned the truth on its head and falsely accused “Donovan” of acting dishonourably.

The article and the leaflet both make reference to the McDonald libel trial known as “McLibel”.

Wiseman said:

“Shell UK could ask the courts for an injunction to prevent Mr Donovan and his father from making any further unpleasant allegations…. But with Mr Donovan already alleging that we have taken all sort of measures to try to keep him quiet, we know this could give him an opportunity to try to present himself as a ‘David’ fighting a ‘Goliath’.  In general, most companies like ours can see only too well that libel proceedings may attract far more publicity than the original allegations ever had or would be likely to have. An example is the recent “McLibel” case which tied up McDonald’s for years. Any case we brought would not necessarily be the same, but it can be a major diversion for no real gain to the company. And people don’t always remember who won”.

(we remember)

Allegations may be unpleasant as they were recently in relation to David Greer being caught in a dishonourable act. The issue is not whether an allegation is “unpleasant”, but whether it is true. Our allegations against Malcolm Brinded turning a blind eye to a corrupted contract tender process, or putting production before employee safety, are both unpleasant, but happen to be true. 

Finally, the headline to the Wiseman article assumed that Shell had a good name and reputation. That is definitely a question to be framed in the past tense in view of the reserves securities fraud and other scandals;  fictitious trades, leadership role in price fixing cartels etc.

Others may wish to follow our example in making applications to Shell under the UK Data Protection Act. The results can be enlightening.

This website and sisters,,,, and, are owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia segment.

One Comment

  1. thomas keegan says:

    whats thre difference betwwen a refinery and a storage terminal !!

    if it has smoe and a flame stack its a refinery,if it has no smoke or flame then its a terminal………..unless,of course it belongs to Total

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